In March, when the United States shut down due to coronavirus, the upcoming election was pushed to the back burner in the minds of many as people struggled to be financially secure and stop the spread of the virus. Many months later, individuals are still grappling with the lack of federal resources, students have begun virtual learning, large social gatherings are still being avoided, and masks have become the new normal everywhere. As the Nov. 3 election approaches in the unexpected midst of COVID-19, we need to ask: will voting at the polls be safe?
The 200,000 deaths edition. Within days, the death toll from COVID-19 in the U.S. will surpass 200,000. At some point we have to ask Sen. Mitch McConnell and his obstinate band of Republican cohorts, how many lives is too many? And how long and how deeply must our nation suffer? Unemployed Americans already have lost the $600 weekly UI benefit that expired at the end of July. Now millions of Americans are seeing their state UI paychecks vanish as well, as 26-week time limits expire. A child care crisis is unfolding before our very eyes, as many people cannot go back to work without access to affordable child care. Overburdened state and local governments are cutting programs right and left, even though we need more investment, not less. And still: not a dime from the U.S. Senate.
With rent swallowing up so much of income, even in “good times,” it is clear that Congress must act to protect people from eviction by providing assistance so tenants can pay their back rent. Even for those who go back to work at no reduction in income, if they have only one month’s back rent to pay, that plus the current rent will take every cent of their earnings. Many will owe much more than one month of back rent, and many are going back to work at reduced hours, if they do not join the ranks of long-term jobless.
Executive actions by the Trump Administration have resulted in 132 court decisions, handed down by U.S. District Courts, U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Of those 132 decisions, 111 have gone against the Trump Administration, while 21 have gone the President’s way – for a loss-win percentage of 84 percent to 16 percent. As bad as the Administration’s loss-win record has been lately, it might surprise you to learn that it actually has improved, compared with almost a year ago.
The news about last year’s income and poverty progress is in a way heartbreaking. Workers have struggled to make gains, working hard to provide economic security for their families. What is heartbreaking is that hard-won gains have been snatched away by the pandemic and its economic toll. But Senate Majority Leader McConnell and his caucus seem prepared to abandon millions of their constituents – to leave Washington without agreeing to further COVID-19 relief.
COVID-19 and the she-cession have exacerbated a housing crisis with disproportionate gender and racial impacts. New NWLC research shows that in mid-July, 41% of Black, non-Hispanic women and 45% of Latinas faced housing insecurity, more than two and a half times the housing insecurity white, non-Hispanic men face (15%). Those rates increased to 45% for Black, non-Hispanic women with children and 49% for Latinas with children.
The Reckless Abandonment Edition. While President Trump admits to misleading the American public on the health threat posed by COVID-19 – and more than 191,000 Americans are dead partly as a result – there can be no denying that the economic threat our country faces is dire. And yet: still no meaningful action from the Senate. Food scarcity in this country is exploding at an alarming rate. An eviction moratorium is in place, but due to loopholes and bureaucracy, people are still being evicted – and tens of millions more will join them early next year unless Congress provides emergency rental assistance. The $600 weekly federal UI payment has long expired – and the temporary, not-quite-workable $300 that the President authorized by taking disaster relief funds from FEMA soon will run out.
Calls on Congress to provide emergency, direct cash assistance to low-income renters and others devastated by the coronavirus pandemic are growing louder – and are coming from an increasingly diverse array of voices, including landlord associations and at least one right-leaning group. It seems that almost everyone wants Congress to act – local government officials, housing advocates, tenants, public health experts, economists, legal aid lawyers, and now, landlord associations.
Labor Day Edition. In August, we saw slower progress in job growth than in the previous two months. The 1.4 million jobs gained included 238,000 temporary Census workers, whose jobs will end in about a month. While total unemployment declined to 8.4 percent, it was 13 percent for Blacks, 10.5 percent for Latinx, and 7.3 percent for whites, underscoring continued disparities in the way the pandemic recession is hitting different racial/ethnic groups. COVID-19 is not going away. “There are several states that are at risk for surging, namely North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois,” says Dr. Anthony Fauci, warning about the possibility of further spread over the holiday weekend.
That’s what President Trump said about voting by mail, in a North Carolina television interview on September 2. He was responding to a question about the 600,000 absentee ballots that could be mailed in North Carolina for the November election. Voicing skepticism once again over the integrity of mailed ballots, he suggested that people test the system by sending in their absentee ballot and then showing up to vote on Election Day. “…if the system is as good as they say it is, then they obviously won’t be able to vote,” he acknowledged. Okay, so if people follow his suggestion (an intentional act), they would be breaking the law.
Last week, in a blog post headlined, “The national eviction crisis has arrived,” we detailed the sad reality that millions of Americans are now at dire risk of losing their homes. The primary reasons for this are COVID-19, the almost incomprehensible loss of jobs in the U.S., and the failure of Congress to approve comprehensive relief for renters and extend an eviction moratorium on federally backed housing. But the eviction crisis is not just a crisis involving housing and homelessness. Turns out, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) it also constitutes a public health emergency.
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s economy is hurting, yet residents can expect little in the way of federal relief. U.S. Senate lawmakers have recessed without passing a fifth coronavirus relief package, meaning the earliest Americans could expect any form of aid would be mid-September. According to census survey data, nearly half of North Carolina households included someone who had lost employment income between March and the end of July. Lindsay Saunders, board member of the anti-poverty group RESULTS, said elected officials aren’t treating the situation with the urgency it deserves.